Check out the 13 winners of a children’s art contest sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program.
They were chosen from more than 600 entries from schoolkids across the country, to help “raise awareness about the global problem of marine debris.”
From a seven-armed purple octopus with a protest sign to a chubby walrus swimming through an obstacle course of trash, the drawings are full of charm, despite the downbeat subject matter. The kids were clearly inspired by the message of protecting the marine environment.
Hopefully their optimism is contagious, because scientists have estimated that there are already around five grocery bags’ worth of water bottles, food wrappers, and other plastic bits in the oceans for every foot of coastline on the planet. That amount could double by 2025 if we don’t improve how we manage this trash.
Human-produced debris in the ocean is a major hazard for wildlife. A recent study reports on tens of thousands of animals injured or killed by plastic debris—many of them endangered sea turtles, right whales, or monk seals.
One leading marine debris problem is the scourge of plastic fishing nets abandoned at sea. Last fall, a NOAA vessel on a cleanup mission collected about 57 tons of debris northwest of Hawaii. Most of it was abandoned “ghost nets”—including some that had ensnared three green sea turtles, which the NOAA crew were able to save.